Is this predator killing your connection with your audience?
As some of you may know, I teach Presentation Skills at a prestigious college in Toronto, Canada. As the semester ends I feel humbled and proud for the improvement shown by all my students in their own journey —there are few other things more personal in an academic environment than exposing yourself to your peers and a professor, to be evaluated on your delivery skills, not your content.
It’s amazing to see the progress from their very short first presentations (30 seconds to three minutes), just a few months ago, to their comparatively longer final presentations (five to ten minutes).
During the early presentations, some of them barely make the minimum time, good body language is nearly non-existent, and filler words are so persistent that some of them seem to be speaking a language from another planet.
Now, at the end of the semester, it’s a joy to hear almost no filler words, great use of rhetorical devices, natural and logical use of the stage, intimate eye contact, very effective slides and data representations, and beautiful handouts. And, most of them make the time with ease or even go happily over time. It is, truly, a joyful experience for their professor.
Except for that little giant, the terrible T-Rex —a pest that’s very hard to exterminate.
So, what is the T-Rex? In public speaking and presentations, the T-Rex is when you have your elbows glued to your ribcage throughout the presentation, making you look like the fearsome and long extinct Tyrannosaurus Rex.
On balance, the T-Rex is better than keeping your hands in your pockets or behind your back, but it hinders your connection with your audience. And, as we all know; no connection… no communication.
The next time you rehearse for a presentation try filming your session and check to see if your T-Rex is alive and kicking. If you see it, banish it.
How? Two words: mimic and amplify.
Mimic your words with your hands. If you ask for a show of hands, show your own hand — this will also increase the response rate to your questions. If you talk about the “three elements required to achieve success,” show three fingers high in the air. If you are telling a story about running away from a dangerous situation, mimic the action of running. Mimicking can be applied to many of the words we speak without seeming stilted or forced. Try it, you’ll be amazed.
Amplify all your gestures; be expansive. If you point to something on the slide, a reference point, or a member of your audience, do so with your arm fully extended. If you say something like “all together,” expand both arms as if you are trying to hug them all at the same time in a huge group hug. Don’t be afraid to go big, gestures rarely look as big to an audience as they do in our mind’s eye.
The advantages? One advantage is that you’ll appear more confident. A second, even more important, advantage is that your audience will feel as if they’re part of the conversation. And, it gives you the opportunity to connect with your audience on an ongoing basis throughout your presentation. As we all know; no connection… no communication.
Remember, tone and body language account for the mayor part of your communication with your audience.
Protect your audience from the scourge of the T-Rex. Mimic your words and amplify your gestures.
Image by myfavoritedinosaur.com and LadyofHats (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons.